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Can your employer force you to pray at work?

In troubled times, a lot of people turn to their faith for comfort – and employers are generally expected to make reasonable religious accommodations in the workplace for their employees. 

Employers are not allowed, however, to force their employees to engage in religious activities – and that includes obligating them to pray or attend church as a condition of their employment.

Does this mean an employer can’t even mention religion?

Your employer is still able to discuss their religious beliefs and even invite employees to join them in services or prayers – so long as they don’t mandate participation and employees are genuinely free to decline without fear of retaliation. That is a form of religious discrimination.

For example, in 2021, a Texas court found a medical practice liable for religious discrimination after 10 former employees complained about being forced to participate in Bible readings and prayer meetings. At least one employee, a Buddhist, was fired in retaliation after merely asking to be excused from the mandatory practice. 

Retaliation for refusal to participate in prayer activities can take other forms, as well, You could be subject to verbal harassment or abuse, lectures on your morality or the state of your soul, transferred to less desirable professions or given poor performance evaluations. 

What if you have no formal religion at all?

Religious discrimination laws apply to everybody with a sincerely held belief, regardless of the nature of their religion – and that includes those who are atheists and agnostics. If you have been forced to participate in religious activities by your employer and/or treated badly for showing any resistance, you may have a valid discrimination claim.